A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that most people think the state should spend more on public education, and they know just where the state should get the cash. Majorities oppose increasing the sales tax or property taxes, but favor a hike in the top bracket of the state income tax. Most people think something should be done: The share of Californians convinced that education is a big problem is higher now than at any time since 1998, when the PPIC poll began. Also some politics: The governor’s approval rating is at 38 percent, Westly is six points up on Angelides and Prop. 82 is only at 51 percent yes, a low number this far from Election Day.
Should California follow the Massachusetts example and require health insurance coverage for all? It sounds like an idea that would be popular with blue-state Californians, but how much would it cost? A report from the California HealthCare Foundation pegs the price at up to $9.4 billion a year. With the state pinched for money, an expense of that amount seems unlikely.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office concludes that the way to improve teacher credentialing is to abolish the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Aside from that, the report also recommends various streamlining reforms for both credentialing and accreditation.
Eleven western metropolitan areas earn prosperity ratings in a new report, with prosperity defined very broadly to include various measures of everything from business conditions to educational status to quality-of-life issues. The study was done by the Sacramento Regional Research Institute as a way to measure California’s capital city, but it looks at other areas too. Five California areas are rated. From top to bottom: Bay Area, Sacramento, San Diego, Inland Empire, Los Angeles. And here’s a regional boast: Every metropolitan area save LA did better than the overall national average.
Advanced Placement courses are a great way for bright high school students to get college credit. The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute examines the distribution of such classes among schools, and finds that schools with high percentages of ethnic minorities tend to have fewer AP opportunities. If you’re surprised by that you’ve been living in one of the vice president’s undisclosed locations, but the numbers are still interesting.
Strengthening California levees to avoid a New Orleans-style disaster has been in the news of late, and the Public Policy Institute of California provides some polling numbers about the public’s view of disasters and preparedness. One interesting note: a slight majority would favor a tax increase to pay for planning.
Illegal immigration could become one of the hot-button issues of the 2006 election, and the Public Policy Institute of California offers a primer. Among the interesting factoids is the degree to which the issue is nationalizing. In the 1980s almost half the nation’s illegal immigrants lived in California. Today, that proportion is less than a quarter.
Politicians and commentators talk endlessly about the increasing cost of social programs. We rarely hear about the increasing cost of tax breaks that benefit the few at the expense of the many. The California Budget Project reports that the state’s Enterprise Zones cost Sacramento almost $300 million a year in lost tax revenue in 2003, up from about $16 million a decade earlier. In effect, that’s a skyrocketing subsidy from all other taxpayers — individuals, most of the state’s businesses, etc. — to the relatively few businesses in the zones. It may be worth it, just as spending programs may be worth the rising cost, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the cost is going through the roof.
The Field Poll takes the California pulse on a little bit of everything. Voters don’t like the president or the governor. Steve Westly is ahead of Phil Angelides for the Democratic gubernatorial nod, and is running neck-and-neck with the Governator. Dianne Feinstein sails along. Plus immigrants, steroids in baseball, earthquakes, the Rob Reiner ballot measure and the down-ballot races.
There’s been much talk in recent years that California is under-investing in higher education and letting the state’s much-vaunted Master Plan collapse. Invest more in higher education and we will get back more in the future, the argument goes. But what if we are failing to prepare enough kids for college? Researchers at UC/Accord and the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access argue that the state is doing too little to get high school seniors ready to be freshmen. There’s a lack of counselors, too few adequately trained teachers and a dearth of college prep classes. Researchers claim the cause is straightforward: We’re not spending enough on K-12 education, especially as compared with other high-income states.